John Cage
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1912-09-05
https://musicbrainz.org/artist/76325a9d-6c25-4649-96b1-84e9b99d6b4b
John Cage John Cage John Cage John Cage

Biography

Famously described by his teacher Schoenberg as ‘an inventor of genius’, possibly no other composer in the history of music has provoked such extremes of veneration and contempt as John Cage. Yet today he is widely regarded as the most ...

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Biography

Famously described by his teacher Schoenberg as ‘an inventor of genius’, possibly no other composer in the history of music has provoked such extremes of veneration and contempt as John Cage. Yet today he is widely regarded as the most influential American composer of the last century, and pop art, concrete poetry, performance art, conceptual art and minimalism all owe something to his oeuvre.

First Construction (in Metal) (1939), his first mature work, ushered in a remarkable sequence of compositions in the 1940s similarly written for the idiosyncratic medium of percussion ensemble or ‘prepared piano’, an instrument Cage invented by inserting objects between the piano strings to give each note its own unique timbre.

Throughout the 1940s a burgeoning interest in Eastern philosophy saw him initially immersing himself in South Asian writings, followed by an even more revelatory encounter with East Asian philosophy, Zen in particular. Cage’s studies helped to nurture his belief in the principle of non-involvement, in which a renunciation of control is made possible by the use of indeterminacy and chance. His ideal was to discover a compositional process that would destroy any conventional sense of musical continuity: ‘giving up control so that sounds can be sounds’, as he put it.

In his works of the 1950s Cage, together with three younger American composers with whom he formed an especially close association – Earle Brown, Morton Feldman and Christian Wolff – explored the seemingly endless possibilities that chance procedures offered. To this end, he chose from a wealth of randomising means, notably the I Ching in both the epic four-volume Music of Changes (1951) for solo piano and Imaginary Landscape No. 4 (1951) for 12 radios; the imperfections on manuscript paper in Music for Piano (1952–6); maps of the heavens in Atlas eclipticalis (1961–2) for orchestra; and the computer in HPSCHD (1967–9) for seven harpsichords and tape.

The ne plus ultra of Cage’s new aesthetic, the notorious 4’33” (1952) for any instrument or group of instruments, is a work in three movements, each of which is marked ‘tacet’: any sounds that might be heard during the course of this ‘silent’ piece – noises made by the audience, environmental sounds and so on – are left entirely to chance.

But to infer that every Cage score post-4’33’’ is some kind of free-for-all would be entirely mistaken. Cage, the indubitable magister ludi of 20th-century music, still established the rules for each piece – rules that might represent no more than a loose framework, as in the extraordinary multimedia work Roaratorio (1979), or on the other hand might result in a fully-notated work such as the dazzlingly virtuosic Freeman Études (1977–80) for solo violin.

Closely related to Cage’s music is a significant body of collected writings, including the seminal Silence (1961), A Year from Monday (1967), M (1973) and Empty Words (1979).

Profile © Peter Quinn, 2003



Tracks

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Paul Price, Philip Brown, Warren Smith, Michael Colgrass & John Cage
She Is Asleep (Quartet)
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She Is Asleep (Quartet) She Is Asleep (Quartet) She Is Asleep (Quartet) She Is Asleep (Quartet)
John Cage & LaSalle Quartet
String Quartet in Four parts: Quietly Flowing Along
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String Quartet in Four parts: Quietly Flowing Along String Quartet in Four parts: Quietly Flowing Along String Quartet in Four parts: Quietly Flowing Along String Quartet in Four parts: Quietly Flowing Along
John Cage
Music of Changes: Book IV
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Music of Changes: Book IV Music of Changes: Book IV Music of Changes: Book IV Music of Changes: Book IV
John Cage & Kroumata
Amores: Trio (7 Woodblocks, Not Chinese)
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Amores: Trio (7 Woodblocks, Not Chinese) Amores: Trio (7 Woodblocks, Not Chinese) Amores: Trio (7 Woodblocks, Not Chinese) Amores: Trio (7 Woodblocks, Not Chinese)
John Cage & Kroumata
Amores: Trio (9 Tom-toms, Pod Rattle)
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Amores: Trio (9 Tom-toms, Pod Rattle) Amores: Trio (9 Tom-toms, Pod Rattle) Amores: Trio (9 Tom-toms, Pod Rattle) Amores: Trio (9 Tom-toms, Pod Rattle)
John Cage & David Tudor
Indeterminacy: New Aspect Of Form In Instrumental And Electronic Music - Part 3
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Indeterminacy: New Aspect Of Form In Instrumental And Electronic Music - Part 3 Indeterminacy: New Aspect Of Form In Instrumental And Electronic Music - Part 3 Indeterminacy: New Aspect Of Form In Instrumental And Electronic Music - Part 3 Indeterminacy: New Aspect Of Form In Instrumental And Electronic Music - Part 3

Indeterminacy: New Aspect Of Form In Instrumental And Electronic Music - Part 3

Performer
Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Polina Leschenko & John Cage
Nocturne for violin and piano [1947]
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Nocturne for violin and piano [1947] Nocturne for violin and piano [1947] Nocturne for violin and piano [1947] Nocturne for violin and piano [1947]
David Tudor & John Cage
Music of Changes Books 1-4 (1951): Book I
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Music of Changes Books 1-4 (1951): Book I Music of Changes Books 1-4 (1951): Book I Music of Changes Books 1-4 (1951): Book I Music of Changes Books 1-4 (1951): Book I
Boris Berman & John Cage
Sonata 1 for Prepared Piano
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Sonata 1 for Prepared Piano Sonata 1 for Prepared Piano Sonata 1 for Prepared Piano Sonata 1 for Prepared Piano
John Cage
Experiences No. 2
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Experiences No. 2 Experiences No. 2 Experiences No. 2 Experiences No. 2
Zoltán Kocsis & John Cage
4 Dances (What so proudly we hail) – Dance No.3
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4 Dances (What so proudly we hail) – Dance No.3 4 Dances (What so proudly we hail) – Dance No.3 4 Dances (What so proudly we hail) – Dance No.3 4 Dances (What so proudly we hail) – Dance No.3
Herbert Henck & John Cage
In A Landscape
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In A Landscape In A Landscape In A Landscape In A Landscape
John Cage
Fear (Radio 1 Session, 1 May 1975)
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Fear (Radio 1 Session, 1 May 1975) Fear (Radio 1 Session, 1 May 1975) Fear (Radio 1 Session, 1 May 1975) Fear (Radio 1 Session, 1 May 1975)
Langham Research Centre & John Cage
Cartridge Music
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Cartridge Music Cartridge Music Cartridge Music Cartridge Music
Rolf Hind & John Cage
Sonata no. 5 for prepared piano
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Sonata no. 5 for prepared piano Sonata no. 5 for prepared piano Sonata no. 5 for prepared piano Sonata no. 5 for prepared piano
John Cage
Williams Mix
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Williams Mix Williams Mix Williams Mix Williams Mix
John Cage & Joshua Pierce (prepared piano)
Sonata #10
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Sonata #10 Sonata #10 Sonata #10 Sonata #10
BBC Singers, John Cage & Stephen Cleobury
Four squared for a capella choir
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Four squared for a capella choir Four squared for a capella choir Four squared for a capella choir Four squared for a capella choir
John Cage
Variations
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Variations Variations Variations Variations
John Cage & Jeanne Kirstein
Music for Marcel Duchamp (1947)
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Music for Marcel Duchamp (1947) Music for Marcel Duchamp (1947) Music for Marcel Duchamp (1947) Music for Marcel Duchamp (1947)
John Cage & David Greilsammer
Sonata V
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Sonata V Sonata V Sonata V Sonata V
John Cage
Cartridge Music
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Cartridge Music Cartridge Music Cartridge Music Cartridge Music
Antoinette Vischer, John Cage, David Tudor & Neely Bruce
HPSCHD for harpsichord and computer generated sound tapes
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HPSCHD for harpsichord and computer generated sound tapes HPSCHD for harpsichord and computer generated sound tapes HPSCHD for harpsichord and computer generated sound tapes HPSCHD for harpsichord and computer generated sound tapes
John Cage, John Cage & David Tudor
Indeterminacy Part 2
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Indeterminacy Part 2 Indeterminacy Part 2 Indeterminacy Part 2 Indeterminacy Part 2
John Cage
Imaginary Landscape No. 1
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Imaginary Landscape No. 1 Imaginary Landscape No. 1 Imaginary Landscape No. 1 Imaginary Landscape No. 1
John Cage & John Tilbury
Sonata V From Sonatas And Interludes For Prepared Pianos
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Sonata V From Sonatas And Interludes For Prepared Pianos Sonata V From Sonatas And Interludes For Prepared Pianos Sonata V From Sonatas And Interludes For Prepared Pianos Sonata V From Sonatas And Interludes For Prepared Pianos
Langham Research Centre & John Cage
Cartridge Music (1960)
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Cartridge Music (1960) Cartridge Music (1960) Cartridge Music (1960) Cartridge Music (1960)
John Cage, Latvijas Radio koris & Kaspars Putniņš
Four2 (feat. Latvijas Radio koris & Kaspars Putniņš)
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Four2 (feat. Latvijas Radio koris & Kaspars Putniņš) Four2 (feat. Latvijas Radio koris & Kaspars Putniņš) Four2 (feat. Latvijas Radio koris & Kaspars Putniņš) Four2 (feat. Latvijas Radio koris & Kaspars Putniņš)
Langham Research Centre & John Cage
Imaginary Landscape No. 5
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Imaginary Landscape No. 5 Imaginary Landscape No. 5 Imaginary Landscape No. 5 Imaginary Landscape No. 5
John Cage & Christoph Maria Moosmann
Souvenir (feat. Christoph Maria Moosmann)
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Souvenir (feat. Christoph Maria Moosmann) Souvenir (feat. Christoph Maria Moosmann) Souvenir (feat. Christoph Maria Moosmann) Souvenir (feat. Christoph Maria Moosmann)
Irene Kurka & John Cage
Sonnekus
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Sonnekus Sonnekus Sonnekus Sonnekus
John Cage
A Child's Christmas In Wales (Live)
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A Child's Christmas In Wales (Live) A Child's Christmas In Wales (Live) A Child's Christmas In Wales (Live) A Child's Christmas In Wales (Live)
Joshua Pierce & John Cage
Sonatas # 14 & 15 Gemini (After The Work By Richard Lippold)
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Sonatas # 14 & 15 Gemini (After The Work By Richard Lippold) Sonatas # 14 & 15 Gemini (After The Work By Richard Lippold) Sonatas # 14 & 15 Gemini (After The Work By Richard Lippold) Sonatas # 14 & 15 Gemini (After The Work By Richard Lippold)

Sonatas # 14 & 15 Gemini (After The Work By Richard Lippold)

Performer
Joshua Pierce & John Cage
John Cage, Robert Worby & Langham Research Centre
Imaginary Landscape no.5
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Imaginary Landscape no.5 Imaginary Landscape no.5 Imaginary Landscape no.5 Imaginary Landscape no.5
John Cage
Sonata 5
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Sonata 5 Sonata 5 Sonata 5 Sonata 5
John Cage & Sabine Liebner
Book IV Etude 25 (feat. Sabine Liebner)
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Book IV Etude 25 (feat. Sabine Liebner) Book IV Etude 25 (feat. Sabine Liebner) Book IV Etude 25 (feat. Sabine Liebner) Book IV Etude 25 (feat. Sabine Liebner)
John Cage
First Part Concerto For Prepared Piano And Chamber Orchestra
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First Part Concerto For Prepared Piano And Chamber Orchestra First Part Concerto For Prepared Piano And Chamber Orchestra First Part Concerto For Prepared Piano And Chamber Orchestra First Part Concerto For Prepared Piano And Chamber Orchestra
John Cage & Gary Verkade
Invitation L. M. from The Harmony of Maine
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Invitation L. M. from The Harmony of Maine Invitation L. M. from The Harmony of Maine Invitation L. M. from The Harmony of Maine Invitation L. M. from The Harmony of Maine
John Cage
In a Landscape
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In a Landscape In a Landscape In a Landscape In a Landscape
John Cage
Transmigration
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Transmigration Transmigration Transmigration Transmigration
John Cage
Lecture on Nothing
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Lecture on Nothing Lecture on Nothing Lecture on Nothing Lecture on Nothing
John Cage
Souvenir (1984)
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Souvenir (1984) Souvenir (1984) Souvenir (1984) Souvenir (1984)
John Cage
Interlude 2
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Interlude 2 Interlude 2 Interlude 2 Interlude 2
Chen Pi-hsien & John Cage
Music of Changes I
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Music of Changes I Music of Changes I Music of Changes I Music of Changes I
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